Originally published on Mar 30, 2015,  Hindustan Times


MP: Afghan ambassador says ‘sister city’ pact aims to strengthen people-to-people ties

  • Rahul Noronha, Hindustan Times, Bhopal
The ‘sister city’ pacts between India and Afghanistan go beyond governments to strengthen people-to-people ties of the two nations, said Shaida Mohammed Abdali, Afghanistan’s ambassador to India.

Abdali is currently in Bhopal in connection with a buyer-seller exchange meet organised by the commerce and industries department of the state government. His visit to the city assumes significance as a ‘sister city’ pact between Bhopal and Khost, a city in Afghanistan, is likely to be signed.

The people of Afghan origin who live in Bhopal accorded Abdali a warm welcome on his arrival at the Bhopal airport on Wednesday.

“The founder of the city of Bhopal, Dost Mohammed, came from Afghanistan. A lot of people here continue their ties with Afghanistan,” he said.

Talking about cooperation between the two countries, Abdali said, “I see potential in education, agriculture, mining, tourism and cultural sectors between MP and Afghanistan,” he said.

“Afghanistan has mineral resources valued at trillions of dollars, but we lack the technical know-how to tap these. India can help in the sector,” he added. The present trade between India and Afghanistan stands at US$700 million.

The main articles of trade are food products, garments and articles of everyday use.

“There is tremendous potential in enhancing the trade,” said Abdali.

“The trade between the two countries will increase once the new route via Iran is opened,” Shaida Mohammed Abdali added.

The Afghan ambassador will visit Barkatullah University on Saturday regarding future ties with Sheikh Zayed University of Khost.

“There are about 15,000-16,000 Afghan students in India right now, most of them in Pune. Bhopal with its numerous colleges can be another centre that can attract Afghan students,” Abdali said.

The Afghan ambassador denied security was a major concern in Afghanistan.

What you keep hearing about Afghanistan is not really true. While there are pockets of disturbances, they exist everywhere in the world. We have a dedicated security system of 10,000 personnel to protect investors,” Mohammed Abdali said. A documentary commissioned by the India-Afghanistan Foundation on ‘Afghans living in India in course of history’ is in the making.

The documentary covers Bhopal as a major centre with Afghan origin population. “The documentary will help keep people-to-people contact alive,” Abdali said.

On whether a large number of ex-servicemen from Madhya Pradesh can be deployed as security personnel in Afghanistan, the Afghan ambassador said that no sector is outside the ambit of co-operation between India and Afghanistan.

Abdali stressed on the need for the US to continue in Afghanistan for moretime. “While Afghanistan today has its own security service, which is 3,52,000 strong, the country still needs support in the form of finances, equipment and training till the time we are able to stand independently,” he said.

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